Looking back, looking forward
Each new year brings the opportunity for reflection and planning. This is particularly true for me as I prepare to transition from my role as director of the Iowa Department of Education to dean of the School of Education at Drake University. While I am still finalizing my transition timeline, I do know for certain that Iowa schools have accomplished much in the past year and have further success on the horizon.
I have seen countless examples of strong Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs across the state. Students with a variety of college and career plans are getting the opportunity to use state-of-the-art equipment, engaging in internships and apprenticeships with local businesses, and gaining practical skills in courses ranging from agriculture to business to welding. I’m also energized by the thoughtful discussions happening with the CTE Advisory Council as we develop our state’s Perkins plans, which will create a roadmap for advancing CTE in the years ahead.
In addition, the development of the Work-Based Learning Clearinghouse is breaking new ground nationally as an innovative approach for creating real-world learning opportunities for students. With nearly 140 projects currently posted and hundreds of businesses in the directory, the Clearinghouse is quickly becoming a statewide hub for ensuring all students have access to high-quality work-based learning opportunities.
Similarly, the Computer Science is Elementary program is supporting equity in access to in-demand skills. The 12 partner schools are busy creating model approaches for expanding high-quality computer science instruction to younger learners. I’ve seen so many strong examples both in the pilot schools and in other schools around the state. Just last month, two fifth grade students in Griswold Community School District demonstrated their “Makey Makey” project in which they used computer coding to create a digitized book report. Opportunities like this open a whole new horizon of possibilities for students.
While schools strengthen and expand the academic offerings, they are also being proactive in supporting the mental health needs of their students. This includes the innovative use of teacher leaders to support teachers’ professional learning on student mental health and integrating social-emotional learning competencies into their teaching toolkit.
Finally, I’m always impressed by the continuous improvement approach educators take to strengthening both student learning and the culture and climate of their schools. At the state level we support this work through Iowa’s School Performance Profiles, which provide another source of data for these improvement efforts and help parents and community members gain insight into their schools. The Department will release the next edition of the Iowa School Performance Profiles toward the end of January.
I wish each of you the best as we enter a new year of learning and growth.
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